This past week I was privileged to visit the class room of a parishioner. The class room is an alternative High School. I visited to give some impression about President Lincoln. I did some work on Lincoln in seminary and have been fond of him since then.
As I shared with the class about Lincoln, I mentioned recent participants in the depiction of Lincoln, chief among them was Colin Powell. What I discovered was that the students in the class room were unaware of Mr. Powell and his many contributions to the country.
One of the great challenges faced by our parishioner is a vacuous cultural context. The teacher is to teach US history from 1870 forward and there's little to any engagement by the students in the world.
Not only did I find the task of sharing about Lincoln difficult, but as I stayed and interacted, the conversation revealed a greater tragedy. Many of the students are what we might call, soulless. That is ask them what they want to do after graduation - they haven't thought about it, or they can't think about it. Ask them what they dream of being - the concept of a dream is devoid in their vocabulary. Ask them about what they like to study, learn, or do - nothing.
Some of the students are not fully enmeshed in this spirit, but on balance - they reflect a great cultural tragedy.
Psalm 34.18 depicts their status: "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves those who are crushed in spirit."
These young people are best described as brokenhearted, crushed in spirit. One girl, 19 years of age presently, spoke of taking a full time baby sitting job at the age of 14, that's when she left a traditional school. By the age of 15 she was renting her own house, running her own business. I'm not sure what compelled her to return to school, but by all outward appearances - she reflected a broken heart.
Psalm 34 depicts their status, it also depicts a God who stays near these beloved souls. While society tends to speak of these young people in terms of getting them ready for a life spent in prison, their faces depict that they've assumed this - the Psalmist sees another story. These are beloved of God, souls to whom He is close, souls to whom He seeks to give hope, a recreated spirit, a new heart.
In the Church we often speak of desiring to get close to God. Maybe getting close God would be getting to know a young person who is brokenhearted or who has a crushed spirit.
Join me in praying for those who host classrooms filled with brokenhearted young people, those who crushed spirits. What they've been asked to do is impossible apart from a renewal of our personal and corporate spirits. Apart from God's pledge, their task is impossible.